- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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The icy relationship between Chicago White Sox broadcasters Ken "Hawk" Harrelson and color commentator Steve Stone has some believing that changes down the road are inevitable.
The on-air disconnect between the two partners, who have been broadcasting Sox baseball for four years, has led to some less than stellar broadcasts.
The bridge between the two veteran announcers became most apparent to viewers when Harrelson periodically shared the booth with former broadcast partner Tom Paciorek, who sat in for Stone on predetermined days off. Paciorek and Harrelson were broadcast partners from 1991-1999.
It was evident that Harrelson had more in-game discourse with Paciorek than he had most of the time with Stone during their broadcasts. At the end of the eighth telecast between the two former partners on Sept. 17, Harrelson said, "Well Wimpy, you were nothing but good luck for us this year. We were 7-1 when you were here." That comment, although innocent in nature, was a red flag to some listeners. It showed Harrelson not only enjoyed his broadcasts with Paciorek but that he was keeping track of his former broadcast partner's appearances.
Stone, who has been considered one of the top analysts in the game for the past 30 years, was matter of fact in his response to ESPNChicago.com questions about his role in the future.
"I have two years and an option left on my contract," is the only thing Stone would say on the record.
Harrelson, whose contract is up in 2015, will be entering his 29th season in the TV booth in 2013. When contacted, he said he had nothing to contribute to the subject matter in this story.
Sources told ESPNChicago.com that both broadcasters have met with Sox officials about putting out a better combined broadcast in the future. With the Sox in first place for most of the season, ratings were up on Comcast (2.3 rating in 2012 and 1.8 in 2011) and on WGN (2.4 and 2.3).
If the White Sox were to give Stone an option to leave, it is unknown if he would seek employment elsewhere. The Arizona Diamondbacks will replace play-by-play broadcaster Daron Sutton and color man Mark Grace for 2013. Stone has lived in the Phoenix area for over 30 years.
The chance to go back and broadcast Chicago Cubs games might be of interest to Stone if Bob Brenly leaves for another job. Industry sources insist Brenly is negotiating a new long-term deal with WGN Television, which negotiates the contracts for both Brenly and play-by-play man Len Kasper.
Brenly would also be a popular choice in Arizona, having managed the Diamondbacks to their only World Series championship in 2001. The former major league catcher, who works for TBS during the postseason, could also be in line for a national broadcasting job.
Brenly ($900,000) and Stone ($600,000) are two of the highest paid local color commentators in baseball, according to industry sources.